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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 5/15/00

Body Snatchers
1993 (1999) - Warner Bros.

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Body Snatchers Film Rating: A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B/F

Specs and Features
87 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, full-frame (1.33:1), double-sided, single-layered, Snapper case packaging, film-themed menu screens, scene access (29 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 2.0 Surround), subtitles: English and French, Closed Captioned

"Where are you gonna go? Where are you gonna run? Where are you gonna hide? Nowhere, because there's no one like you left."

Abel Ferrara knows how to do creepy. In Bad Lieutenant, Harvey Keitel was so deplorable that anyone with two X-chromosomes would be ill advised to get near him. Driller Killer was about... well, just that - a killer with a drill. We can argue the merits (if there are any) of that later. Body Snatchers, his update on the Jack Finney novel already brought to the screen in two previous adaptations, is a genuinely creepy treat.

In this most current version of the story, the action now takes place at an army base. Maybe it's because I grew up on military bases and can identify with the suspicion and fear that comes with constantly living with a new group of people, but this change of location worked for me. The fear that can come along with living on base is intensified once the alien invasion gets under way.

Marti Malone (Gabrielle Anwar) is traveling for the summer with her father, Steve (Terry Kinney) and her stepmother (Meg Tilly). Steve works for the Environmental Protection Agency and has been assigned the task of inspecting some of the bases in the southeastern part of the United States. Marti is left alone a lot and spends most of her time wandering around the base looking for fun. The longer she stays on base, the more suspicious she becomes. She meets Tim (Billy Wirth), an understanding soldier.

At home, Marti's already suspicious stepmother is becoming increasingly distant and her half-brother feels alienated from the town's all too quick to conform children. We soon learn what is at the heart of everyone's suspicion in some truly gruesome special effects scenes. What this version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers shows us that the others didn’t, is the alien pods taking over bodies from the inside out. Tentacles slither out of the pods and wrap themselves around their human prey to do their vile work. And these are not your everyday alien/human hybrids. When they spot a human that has not yet been converted, they let out a really nasty sound. Think ambulance siren meets lap dog yelp. Not a pretty sound. It gradually becomes clear that the entire town is under the same spell and if Marti doesn't act quickly, she's next.

I found Body Snatchers to be a very scary and enjoyable movie. The ending is a little too tidy, but it stops itself (at a short 87-minute running time) before it completely runs out of steam. Still, Ferrara has created a slick thriller that I think lives up to the legacy of the first two films and still has its own individual feel.

The disc quality itself is worth mentioning. Warner has given new anamorphic treatment to Body Snatchers. There are a lot of nighttime shots in this movie and they all look really good. You can see some occasional artifacting, but black levels are right on, providing some really impenetrable dark shots. There is also a natural amber tone to the film and this comes across very clean in almost every shot. On the audio side, we get two average (English and French) surround tracks. Rear channels are used, but not overused, effectively to heighten the mood on some of the scarier scenes.

What about extras? Nada. You don't get a thing. No trailer, no production notes, no bios - nothing! The packaging lists the menus and language tracks as extras, but give me a break. There's nothing to speak of here. Do keep in mind that this is one of Warner's budget-line DVD releases and it still sports a pretty spiffy anamorphic picture. That's something other studios (think MGM and old Buena Vista) will charge upwards of $25-30 for, even without anamorphic.

Some people didn't really care for Ferrara's updating of this classic movie, and neglected to see it either in theatres or on video. I really liked it and fell for all the creepy crawly moments. Whether you'll like it is obviously up to you to decide. If you give it a chance, by all means, skip the pan and scan VHS copy and go for broke with the DVD. You're missing a lot of the picture if you don't see it this way.

Dan Kelly

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